I clicked the lock shut on the Pastor’s cage. We threw the body of his partner, Alan, in the cage across from him and locked it for good measure. Abigail was busy unlocking the cages of the other girls who were being held hostage below the church. I called out to all the girls as I made my way to the stairs.
“Meet me up in the kitchen everyone, it’s about time that we got some food in our stomachs.”
I made my way into the kitchen and placed my newly earned shotgun leaning against the wall right by the stove where I would be cooking. I turned on a couple of burners on the stovetop and found two pans, putting them in place to let them start heating up. As I found a couple dozen eggs in the fridge, I heard everyone making their way up the stairs.
“Abby, will you see if there are any potatoes in that pantry over there, and start cutting them up if you find any?”
She nodded and went towards the pantry. As the rest of the girls filed in, she spoke to them.
“Y’all come in and take a seat. There are more chairs in the chapel if we need them. Let’s see, there are 5 of you. Feels just like old times back in the bunker, 7 of us all together. If one of you wants to help me chop up these potatoes, I would appreciate the help.
My name is Abigail, but you can call me Abby, and that is my sister Madison. We come from the same bunker. We barely escaped our “Mother” sacrificing us for these crazy people. I would love to hear more about the rest of you while we work on getting some food ready.”
One girl followed Abby and searched for a couple of knives and cutting boards to help with the potatoes. She responded to Abigail as she did so.
“My name is Ada.”
She pointed to each of the other girls as she told us their names.
“This is Esther, Leah, Bethany, & Rebecca. We have been down there for a while together now, though we all came from different what you call “bunkers” as well. Esther and Leah are the only two like you who come from the same one.”
I started shaking my head in disbelief before replying to this statement.
“It is so unbelievable. I had a feeling when I saw all of you dressed like us down there that there must be more like ours. I just can’t believe the scale of the deception. How long have they been doing this? How many poor young girls lost their lives before they were able to get away.”
Ada seemed very affected by my saying this but began chopping potatoes and responded anyway.
“Yes, I was the only one to make it out of my home.”
She paused to fight back tears before continuing.
“I did not catch on to what was happening until it was too late. I was able to stop myself from drinking the poison, but the rest of my sisters drank every bit of it before I could stop them. My “Mother” came at me with a knife and slashed me right here.”
She gestured to her shoulder where we could see a bad wound coming out from under her dress.
“She was going for my throat, but I was able to fight the knife away from her and plunge it into her own. My poor sisters, I just can’t stand to think of it. Bethany and Rebecca suffered very similar fates to mine. Bethany was able to sneak away without a deadly fight with her mother, but Rebecca had to stop hers by strangulation. Both lost every sister to the poison and the ritual that accompanies it. Esther and Leah still have their sisters at their home waiting for them. We have got to save them when we get out of here if there is any way that we possibly can.”
Abigail shared about her close run-in with the poison.
“Our mother knew I was on to her and she tried to get me with some poison as well, a bottle of cyanide powder that she was going to mix into a drink for me. What is this about a ritual though? We did not get to see any of that before we got away.
We also have sisters to go back and save. Don’t worry we will all do everything in our power to save anyone still in one of those terrible places. I have a feeling that there may be even more of them out there than we know about.”
I finished with the first pan of scrambled eggs and gestured for Leah to help me serve what was ready so that I could start on another pan. I dropped some butter into the other pan as Abby and Ada came over with the potatoes. They scraped them off the cutting board and into the sizzling pan. The rest of the girls were ravenously tearing into the first round of eggs when we heard the sound of the front door being kicked in savagely.
I immediately grabbed the shotgun and motioned for the girls to take cover. I took a position at the wall that led into the chapel and poked my head around the corner very slowly. I saw two men, one older and one appearing to be in his thirties or so. They were both armed with handguns and had rifles strapped to their backs. I cocked the shotgun and made sure that it was ready to fire. They must have heard me doing this because as I did, I heard the younger one shout out in anger.
“Drop your weapon immediately! We know everything you people are doing here. You give me any reason to and I am going to blow your brains all over this place.”
I made the inference that he was not here to harm us. It was still possibly a risk to trust these strangers, but I also would not be able to live with myself if I shot them down and they were here to help. I held the gun up vertically with one hand and put my other in the air and came around the corner slowly. I spoke in a slow and measured tone making sure to let them know that if the feeling was mutual, I meant them no harm.
“My name is Madison; I am here with 6 other girls. We were being held captive by the pastor of this church and his partner.”
The men seemed to loosen up a bit but did not lower their weapons yet. The older gentleman spoke to me in a more subdued and friendly tone.
“Alright Madison, why don’t we all just put our weapons down. We would like to discuss some things with you and the other girls.”
The three of us lowered our firearms and I gestured for them to follow me into the kitchen. I called into the kitchen to let them know that we were safe.
“They are not here to harm us girls, looks like we have two more who will be joining us at the table.”
Ada and Abigail took over the potatoes and eggs at the stove. I showed the two men to the table and sat across from them, eager to hear what their stories were. The older man was the first one to speak.
“Thank you for being hospitable after that rough entrance. Maybe we should start by introducing ourselves and telling you all a little bit about why we are here.
My name is Ronald Sutherland. My daughter was kidnapped many years ago and I have come to learn that she was taken in by this horrible system that they have going here in Fern Hollow.”
I cringed at the name Sutherland and gave Abigail a knowing glance. She dumped the eggs onto a platter and rushed over by me and grabbed onto my arm. Ada began to split the eggs up onto everyone’s plates as the potatoes finished cooking.
“And I am Jacob Ash, the would-be murderer of Mr. Sutherland here.”
He patted Ronald on the back and smiled a somber and disheartened smile. He grabbed his shoulder and gave him a long and meaningful look before continuing.
“I was seconds away from taking an ax to him the same way that he did to my parents when I was a little boy. Something about how calm he was had distracted me, I had to question him. I had to know why he would do such a thing.
He explained that his daughter Margaret was kidnapped by my parents, that his wife died in childbirth and Margaret was the only thing he had left. I was destroyed to hear this about my mom and dad, but with time I grew to learn that this was true and that there was much more to it than just his daughter.
This town, Fern Hollow, is a hub for human trafficking of young girls. It is not the usual kind that focuses on sexual slavery, these people have a strange fascination with occult human sacrifice. It has been going on for generations and at this point, the entire town plays a part in it, as far as we can tell.”
Ada was passing out the potatoes now and everyone had a full plate before them, everyone eating as much as they could stand. She took a seat at the other side of the table next to Esther and Leah. I was the first to respond to Jacob & Ronald.
“We have all seen different stages of this human sacrifice that you speak of.”
I looked towards Mr. Sutherland and began to tear up.
“Sir, your daughter was the one that Abigail and I called Mother. She raised us from the time that we presumably were snatched away from our families the same way that she was taken from you. She loved and cared for us every day of our lives.”
I was crying harder now and doing my best to fight through it and finish what I had to say.
“I had to do it to get away… I didn’t have any other way, I’m so sorry.”
Abigail was clutching me tight and I could feel that she was quietly sobbing as well. Ronald came around the table and held both of us.
“Don’t worry dear, I don’t blame you. Not in the slightest.”
He backed away a bit and patted us both on the backs. We looked up to him and he gave us a warm yet heart-wrenching smile.
“You know what it sounds like to me? It sounds like I am finally getting the chance to meet my granddaughters. I am just sorry that I could not be there for you sooner than this.”
Even though we were not biologically his, this meant more to us than he could ever know. After all that we had been through it meant everything to know that we had someone who could look out for us, someone who we could plan to try and make some kind of a life with when we made our way out of this mess. He pulled us in for one more embrace before heading back to his seat beside Jacob. Once there, he looked off into a corner appearing to be very deep in thought.
“I had often wondered what they had gotten my sweet little Margaret mixed up into. I obsessed over it if I am going to be honest. I knew it was something sick and twisted. I could have never imagined something on this scale though, something so diabolical and wicked as this.
I don’t blame you, girls, for doing what you had to so that you could gain your freedom. I like to hope that my Margaret was only doing what she had to so that these sick people would let her live. When I really think about it, I think that might be the same type of situation that Jacob’s parents might have been in when they took my little girl from me all those years ago.
It is hard in things so grand as this to find where the fault does indeed lie. I tend to believe it is some kind of evil incarnate, just attaching itself to every avenue it can until it becomes like an epidemic. The forces of evil are at work in this world, that is undoubtedly true. Us here in this room though? We are here to represent the forces of what is good and what is right.
We will not give in and we will not say die. As long as a heartbeat pounds among us, the resistance will live on and this thing will be wiped out. For what they did to each and every one of us, they will pay. They will pay dearly.”
The girls were getting pumped. Ronald’s words were having a noticeable effect on the room. We were breathing heavier, fists clenched, and jaws tightened. I wiped the tears from my eyes. My sorrowful expression had been replaced with one of deep-seated rage inspired by the impactful comments made by Ronald.
“We are ready. We have to get back our sisters. We have to do anything that we can to put a stop to this whole operation.”
I stood up from my chair and grabbed the shotgun. Everyone else followed suit and Jacob passed his rifle to Abigail and his handgun to Ada. Ronald handed his rifle to Esther and his handgun to Leah. Ronald led the way toward the front of the church as Jacob explained the gesture.
“We have more firearms and ammunition in the vehicle. I am hoping y’all have the keys to that pickup out front?”
“Yes, we got them off the pastor’s crony,” I answered.
Ronald threw the front door open and as soon as he did the sound of a gun rang throughout the chapel. He gasped and grabbed at his chest fighting to take in a breath but not quite able to. As we realized what was happening and began to back into a defensive position another shot was fired as a red mist came from the back of Mr. Sutherland’s head.
He fell back onto the floor, the blood beginning to pool around him. I couldn’t believe what we just saw. I cocked the shotgun and stationed myself next to Bethany and Rebecca who were as of yet unarmed. Esther came next to me aiming her rifle over the top of the pew.
Ada and Abigail stood side by side along with Leah in a crouched position, all of them aiming intently at the door of the church. Jacob had dropped low and pressed his back to the wall near the door when the first shot was fired. A voice came out from the doorway that had a deep southern twang to it.
“Now y’all don’t try nothin’ stupid girls, I know damn well y’all don’t know how to use them things. This is Sheriff Hudson, go ahead and give yourselves up so we can end this here without any more bloodshed.”
I was fuming, I was so pissed off and infuriated that I couldn’t even think straight. This man just came and took the last person who could have been a parental figure to me before I even got the chance to know him. I fired one shot through the open door and screamed at him. I cocked it and charged towards the door and shot again. This time as I shot, I heard a grunt from the other side.
Jacob peeked around the corner to see how badly the sheriff was hit. When he did so, he was grabbed by the head and jerked to the ground. All of us came running to the door and I reloaded my shotgun before cocking it and readying my aim. I led the way through the door, and we saw that the sheriff had a tight grip on Jacob. They were both on the floor and I could see blood coming from the side of the sheriff where my shot had connected.
“Well ain’t this a surprise. I don’t ever forget a resident of Fern Hollow. Even one that I hadn’t seen in decades. You girls go right on your way, or I blow the Ash boy’s head clean off, understand?”
I knew he was bluffing because keeping Jacob alive was the only thing that was standing between him and about 5 bullets going straight through him at one time. Each of us who were armed had our guns pointed directly at his head. Jacob coughed and pulled the sheriff’s arm in an attempt to loosen his chokehold enough to speak to us.
“The keys are in the van, take it and go. Move the stick to the letter D!” He coughed and gagged as the sheriff pulled his hold tighter. Sheriff Hudson pulled back the hammer and shoved his six-shooter with more force into the side of Jacob’s head.
“My patience is running out, so why don’t you girls just go ahead and do that before I paint the side of this church red.”
I motioned for the girls to head to the vehicles. Keeping my shotgun pointed straight at the sheriff the whole time. They split up between the truck and the van. I started to back my way towards the van and called out to Jacob.
“We will be back for you. Stay strong.”
The van had four rows of seating and was stashed full of weapons just like they had said. In the front seat right by me was Abigail and Ada sat close behind. Bethany was in the back seat rummaging through the weapons to find a gun that suited her.
I cut on the engine and in the truck, Leah did the same. I looked around for the stick and once I found it pulled it to the D. I looked towards Leah to make sure she had found hers. When she did, she looked up and we nodded to each other before kicking up dust behind us and heading back toward the direction of the bunkers. We would be back alright, and we would be back with an army.